Worker Owner Resources

Illustration of a folder with papers meant to represent sheets of paper containing worker ownership resources

D3’s transition to worker ownership was supported by many professionals along the way. One of the best resources was people who had “been there done that” or were also in the process of building their own worker-owned coop, especially Eric Anderson at Book Suey.  While the process was often challenging, finding support, advice, and new perspectives was always helpful.  This blog post is meant to answer the question of “best resources” but we would also be happy to talk with you more about our process if you are interested in learning more.

Our initial transition conversations were supported heavily by the Center for Community-Based Enterprise, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting worker ownership formation and transitions.  C2BE provided D3 with a decision matrix that helped categorize the types of decisions we needed to make to set up our transition.  They also provided legal advice as we wrestled with decisions and tradeoffs that needed to be made.

A few organizations have repositories of resources that we found useful as we all began to wrap our heads around the concepts related to worker ownership. Our ownership team has a diverse array of learning styles, so having these open resources available helped people process the information and answer their questions at their own pace.  The Democracy at Work Institute has a resource library that we used to independently study. We also really enjoyed this article from the Cooperative Development Institute’s Co-Op Cathy about how co-ops determine their formula for profit sharing.

One of our key challenges was figuring out how to navigate between our employee/supervisor relationships and everyone coming together as equal owners.  We often talk about our “owner hats” and putting them on before meetings.  One of the best resources we found for detailing the different responsibilities of ownership versus management was a report on Democratic Governance.  This document heavily influenced our final operating agreement and long-term growth plans.  For example, with only 5 owners, we don’t currently have a grievance committee.  However, as D3 continues to grow and the ownership group expands, we plan to explore creating this permanent committee to handle issues in the workplace as detailed by the document.

D3’s small size was also a particularly unique challenge.  This article from the National Center for Employee Ownership helped us articulate the reasons this was a good transition for D3 and also outlined some of the options and decisions points we had along the way.

As we progressed through the process, D3 searched for an accountant who could manage our new accounting needs as well as a lawyer who could answer final questions and file our paperwork for the transition. We worked with Bruce Mayer of Wegner CPAs to build out our accounting systems and Erick Hosner, now with Dickinson-Wright to finalize the legal aspects of the conversion.

Our finalized operating agreement incorporated the cooperative identity, values, and principles from the International Cooperative Alliance. Their explanations of these principles succinctly capture the spirit of our model.

And lastly, the learning hasn’t stopped. Since converting in 2022, we’ve started talking to the Detroit Community Wealth Fund and recently decided to become a member of their Cooperative Economic Network of Detroit.  We are very excited to learn more from local cooperatives in our community.

Read all of the posts in our series Worker Ownership

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